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Birthing Language by Tara Thompson, BWI Birth Doula Student

Words are powerful, so it is important to consider what words to use around a laboring mom. Her senses are already elevated and she is on high alert, and she is perhaps now in her “primal brain”. What is said to her or in her presence is sure to have an impact on her labor and possibly even her labor progression. Words are not always necessary at birth, and even kind and encouraging words may inhibit the mother from fully being in her labor state of mind which could possibly interrupt her labor. Not all women enjoy listening to others during their labor. It is important to know when to talk and when not to. When language is needed or wanted, how we talk is of great importance. Please allow me to explain this further.

The volume at which we speak should be considered. Is the mom vocal herself, perhaps moaning loudly? Is the room full of distractions? Are you trying to assist her in finding something to focus on? She may appreciate a loud, direct tone, but often, I think it is more so the case that a woman needs a soft voice spoken to her. A whisper in an ear can be received stronger than a yell. The loudest voice in the room isn’t always the most impactful. It is important to evaluate the situation, know the mother and follow your intuition when deciding on how to speak to the laboring mom.

Where we are when we are talking to mom is also important. Are we across the room or are we near her and close to her in her laboring space? Depending on where a woman is in her labor, she may only be aware of the bubble around her. To properly communicate with a laboring mom, you must be near her and in her space, while being respectful of that space as well. It is hard to whisper across a room to someone who may not even see or feel you.

Once respecting the importance of volume of our voice and location of ourselves in relation to the mom, we must carefully craft our words. As a doula, I am careful to not interrupt a mom’s labor as sometimes silence is needed and wanted. With that said, I also know when to use words to encourage, reassure, inspire and affirm. I would not want to mislead her by using arbitrary words. I must also be careful to not give subjective medical advice if she asks
questions on what she should do if given options by her provider. These words could easily derail a mom from her labor.

A carefully crafted sentence is important and how we phrase what we are trying to convey to mom should be considered before speaking.
Nurse: “You are 4cm dilated.”
Mom: “JUST 4cm?!”
(insert pause to think, consider her feelings and gently touch mom while looking at her)
Me: “You are making great progress! Your body is working to open so your baby can
come out.” (Refrain from analyzing numbers)

In that exchange of words, I wanted to be careful not to mislead her. I didn’t want her to feel as if she had so much more to progress, but I also didn’t want to convince her that the next part of her labor would be fast. I simply wanted to support her by giving her well-earned credit for her hard work and remind her that her cervix is not a crystal ball.

“This is hard!”, says the mom. My reply would be simple, “…and you are strong! You are doing good work to meet your baby.” I would be careful not to choose words that give herself doubt. I want her feel confident herself. Labor is of course hard work, but it would not be helpful to affirm that or remind her. What would be helpful is to remind her that she is strong enough to birth her baby.

What if mom says, “I can’t do this.” I can recall saying this when in labor with my first. I also remember hearing, “You have to, sweetheart.” Maybe the reply was said with empathy and some endearment, but it did not leave me feeling confident, positive or optimistic. I felt helpless. A better reply would have been, “…but you are already doing it. I am right here with here with you.” I think it would have been helpful to be reminded that I was doing it and that I
wasn’t going to be alone.

These are several examples of what can be said to a woman in labor, but ultimately it is important to remember the timeliness of our words, the volume at which we say those words and where we are communicating them from. If we remember to speak from our hearts, we are more likely to speak what is perfect at that moment in time.

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BirthWorks Reborn by Stephanie Parry, BWI Childbirth Educator and Birth Doula Student

The birthing of my career as a childbirth educator and doula began over 18 years ago, on a cold fall evening as I pushed out my VBAC baby into the bed he was conceived in, surrounded in peace and love and welcomed earth side by his parents, grandmother, and loving midwives. There is something so otherworldly and generational when a baby’s first introduction to human life involves dim lights, hushed voices, warm hands, and landing safely on mother’s soft breast. How I wish all babies were introduced to this world in such a manner. Not all of my six children were born in a gentle way, but because of my knowledge and inner knowing of the BirthWorks philosophy, my children were all consciously
welcomed in awareness and peace.

Life has brought me great surprises through raising children, navigating a divorce, and entering the life of single motherhood. And though I have had to take other jobs to provide an income for my growing family, always my heart has been with birth work… my life’s passion to witness and hold space for the women who birth themselves as they birth their babies. I have found that the choices I made in life to raise my children often coincide with how they were birthed… in love and peace and with a lot of wide open space for them to feel safe to explore who they are.

Recently, as I was attending a therapy session to release some past trauma and difficult feelings that I was holding onto, I was led into visualizations that reminded me so much of the work we do in our BirthWorks childbirth classes that it bought me back in time in my body to a workshop many years ago while attending training with Cathy Daub. Cathy was helping me release and deal with the grief from the separation from my daughter after her traumatic cesarean birth a few years before. The three day separation from her had caused significant trauma and guilt that I had not yet dealt with. It was crucial to release this in order to move forward in my path as a childbirth educator and doula. When Cathy led me through the guided visualizations to help my body create a new memory, I was holding my baby in my arms as soon as she was born. This is the memory my body has of her birth now. And I was changed from the inside out.

As I sat through the therapy this past week releasing feelings of grief and hurt, my body instantly reminded me of my experience during that childbirth training so many years before. And I knew in that moment where my next step was… that I belong with birthing women. One of the most amazing things about BirthWorks has been the inner knowing and trusting of my own intuition that it has instilled in me. How easy it is to forget who we are and what we are all about in the busyness and chaotic pace of life. And how easy is it that in a moment our body can remember and teleport us back to a time that has been imprinted into our cells.

The world is in the middle of a tumultuous and uncertain time. Yet, life continues on and babies will be born. And so it is a deep honor and with gratitude that I step back into the path of serving birthing women and their families and accept my calling alongside the women who have paved the way before me.  I am BirthWorks reborn!

Blessed be.

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Together With Love at an Unassisted Birth by Jules Baird (BirthWorks Doula Student)

“She's coming, she's coming, she's coming!" exclaimed the birthing mother.
"Your body and your baby clearly know exactly what they are doing. We are here with
you," I responded as her doula.

My name is Jules. I live down here in Christchurch, New Zealand and have recently
attended my first two births as a Doula in training with Birthworks International. In my
first birth as a doula, I was welcomed and encompassed by the beautiful home birth
midwives and able to support my friend to have an empowering calm home birth.

My second birth was just a month or so later with a mother having her fourth baby and
with a history of fast births. Her second child was a planned home birth with a midwife
after a traumatic hospital first birth. The baby arrived on the bathroom floor before her
midwife arrived. Her mother in law was present and all were well but it was a scary
experience for this mother.

She was able to have a slower calm, attended water-birth with her third in her living
room. Now, her fourth pregnancy was a surprise and caught mother and father off
guard. For them, it took many months to come to terms with having a fourth unplanned
child. I met her late in her pregnancy when she had injured her ankle and was left
mostly immobile. We formed a strong connection over several visits and I noted her
main fears were to be alone during birth and to have an injury due to a fast labor.

The day came. I answered my phone at 2:50am to a very calm positive voice saying,

"I think the baby is coming."
“What’s happening?” I asked.
“I’ve been contracting for half an hour and my water just broke. Yes, come!”

Even though her tone was very calm and relaxed I took her call for me to come very
seriously and got to her house 15mins later (thankfully she lived very close).

Walking in, I heard the mum on the phone saying to her midwife,
"Ok,...I suppose I will call you back when I really, really need you here.”

She sounded slightly dejected. I greeted her husband who was busy in the kitchen
boiling water and beginning to fill the pool. I rounded the corner to greet mum with a
smile as she rolled onto her knees on the couch as a very strong contraction began.

"Wow this is very, very strong...this is the first one like this...maybe I do need to call my
midwife back," she says through some low primal groans.

Her body seemed to shift gear as soon as soon as I, her support person, arrived. I
applied back pressure through this contraction and when it has passed I asked,

“Would you like me to dial your midwife or shall we wait for one more contraction?”
“Wait for another contraction,” she decides.

Moments later, the next contraction came, even stronger than the last one. We move
through this contraction together and then she dials her midwife. As she does I look and
see the pool is a long way from full so I quickly take a hot water bottle, fill it and wrap it
in a clean towel to support her with heat ( a decision that turned into a small miracle
later on, from a carer’s perspective).

The next contraction was stronger again and with a panicked voice and low grunting this
beautiful mother moved to the ground on some clean towels her husband and I lay out
and said,

"She's coming, she's coming, she's coming!"

Mindful that too many words keep a mother in her higher cortex, I wanted to find a way
to validate her fears and calm her in the same moment. So choosing my words very
carefully I said in a soft warm tone,

"I know you don't want your baby to arrive before your midwife. Know that your body
and your baby clearly know exactly what they are doing. We are here with you."

With that, she seemed to calm slightly and go inward finally joining her baby on the
journey to her. Her baby was clearly moving very fast and mums breath was very quick.
Miindful that she was worried of tearing due to a quick labor, I then said in a calm voice.

"Let’s just slow things down a little by slowing our breath," and I breathed slowly with
her.

With that, she really slowed and became calm and present as her baby began to crown.
But just then, another moment of worry emerged from her,

"Who will catch my baby?" (as she was on all fours and didn't want to move).
"Dad is here ready to catch your baby," I said giving him a big “I’m here to support you
too nod" and showing where his hands needed to be.

He watched his daughter’s head be born and slowly rotate. I sensed a moment of worry
from him that he may not be able to catch his baby so I put my hands down well below
his to show him support and reassure him (although for me I had already made a
mental note to myself that I would do everything possible to not touch her baby as that
is not my role and furthermore wanting to protect the microbiome of this little one).

A moment later their beautiful little girl slid out into her father’s hands and I helped talk
mum through carefully lifting one leg so dad could pass baby under to her. I moved

closer to mum as she sat back and brought her baby up to her chest with the most
beautiful calm, empowered look on her face. I remember thinking with reverence,

“Wow, birth is just so normal." I was so caught up in the moment!

Then, suddenly feeling responsible to some degree, thoughts came to me,
“Check the baby’s color.”
“Check the baby’s breathing.”
“Keep the baby warm.” I quickly turned to my side seeing a clean towel wrapped in a
hottie. What a miracle!

We wrapped their new baby girl promptly in a beautiful warm towel and laid her on her
on mum’s chest. She was born ten minutes after I arrived and half an hour before the
midwife arrived.

The mother has since told me how empowering this birth experience was for her. She
said it could have easily been just as scary as her second unattended birth but simply
having someone with her that was calm and positive really allowed her to step into the
moment and be present with her baby girl as they began their next journey of life
together.

For me, this birth was one of the biggest divine gifts I will ever receive. It showed me
that both my knowledge of birth and my ability to calmly trust my instincts in the
moment, were enough to significantly support and help the mother, father, and baby to
have an empowering birth experience.

Later in the kitchen the father beamed saying to me,

"I can't believe I delivered my daughter!"

As this was my second experience with birth support to date, and a much more close up
one than my first beautiful experience, I did find myself thinking of all that could have
gone wrong later in the day... I have been able to settle on the reassurance for myself
that if anything untoward would have happened we would have worked through that
together in love. The key words that linger for me are “Together with Love.” The birth
was a gift my soul will always remember.

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Oxytocin: The Love Hormone

My name is Ashton Gelzinis, and I am one of the founders of Birth Naturally Brevard, LLC, a childbirth education and doula service business. My partners, Julie O’Neill and Elizabeth McLean, and I have served women in Brevard for several years and love every minute. We are also the owners of a small retail shop called The Oxytocin Emporium where we sell merchandise to support our doula clients and sister birthworkers! We absolutely love the name of our shop because of our fascination with the hormone oxytocin. We hope that our work only raises the levels of oxytocin in the room!

During our time supporting pregnant women and their partners, we have found ourselves fascinated by the process and how women’s bodies evolve and prepare in the weeks leading up to their birth. The hormones of undisturbed labor and the role they play not only during birth, but throughout the mother’s postpartum recovery are nothing but amazing. There are lots of hormones at play during this process, but the one we all hear most often is oxytocin.

Oxytocin. “The Love Hormone.” “The Cuddle Hormone.” This single hormone plays a major role in women’s bodies throughout their lives, but most importantly in pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland. Outside of pregnancy and birth, oxytocin contributes to fertility, digestion, wound healing, morality, personal connection, and many other situations throughout our lives.

“Oxytocin is the hormone of love. We share it when we have a good conversation, we share it when we make love, and when we hug, and BIRTH is the biggest brightest time of oxytocin sharing.” -Robin Lim

Let’s look at how this incredible hormone contributes to birth – the way it is supposed to. It plays a pivotal role in the birth process, not only to encourage surges, but it provides the mother with space to fall in love and bond with her newborn.

While laboring, the mother’s body releases oxytocin in response to the pressure of the baby on the pelvic floor. This release of oxytocin brings on those amazing powerful surges that help to efface and dilate the cervix, push the baby down into the birth canal, and birth the placenta. Oxytocin is released throughout the pregnancy, but really reves up just before and during birth for these reasons. In certain situations, mothers can encourage a release of oxytocin with nipple stimulation, a quiet, intimate break with her partner, or clitoral stimulation. If a labor is considered “slow to progress,” trying some of these techniques may help encourage that release and speed up the process rather than using synthetic oxytocin that doesn’t work in the same ways in the body.

Once the baby is born, more oxytocin is released, the placenta is delivered and afterbirth contractions continue to help close up the placental site and slow bleeding.

When her baby is born, the mother takes one look at this new life and gets another burst of this amazing hormone to help encourage her to bond and fall in love her new bundle. Oxytocin forces us to slow down and focus on what is most important – nurturing and feeding our baby. Every latch causes another release that helps to slow any postpartum bleeding and encourages her uterus to return to its original size before baby. The oxytocin released during nursing also encourages a healthy milk supply.

Another interesting oxytocin tidbit is that not only birthing mothers release oxytocin. Partners who are involved and present for the birth of their child release higher levels of oxytocin through the end of the pregnancy. Their levels actually continue to stay higher than average for about 6 months after the birth. This hormone in partners who didn’t give birth perform a very similar job – encourages bonding and loving. It truly is the “Love Hormone.”

In any birthing room, let’s do our part to let this hormone work it’s magic. Let’s give women the space they need to birth their babies. Let’s step away from the technological additions to birth and let mothers’ bodies work. When a woman is undisturbed, her body’s hormones work together with her baby to find just the right path for them. As doulas, we hold space, we remind mothers that the oxytocin is working and her body is nothing but incredible. That truly is the honor of my life. Let the oxytocin flow!

 

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Adina’s Testimonial

Attending the BirthWorks childbirth education workshop in Mt Dora, Florida this May was way more than I bargained for! The place was absolutely stunning. A Victorian style historical hotel with sprawling grounds against a backdrop of the magnificent lake and quaint town. But even more than that was the content of this 3 day workshop given by Cathy Daub. The workshop was so comprehensive and included topics such as grieving, mother daughter relationships, optimal pelvic positioning as well as many others that are not usually included in typical childbirth preparation classes. They were all taught through hands on experimental learning and not through didactic teaching. It was the BirthWorks experience I came out with!

One of the really vital things was teaching and facilitating using open ended questions and letting the other party find their inner guide to direct them. That evening I had a chance to really practice this skill. Being a doula, I had a client in labor and sent a backup.  Right before pushing, my backup called me asking if I could speak to the client as she was panicking about pushing. Instead of going into my long speech about why she shouldn’t be scared to push and how she’s done this in the past, I asked her what her fear was. She said she’s afraid she can’t do it. I asked her what she felt she needed to be able to move forward and she said she thought she needed help from the doctor. I said what kind of help. She said she remembered from her last birth that the doctor did supra pubic pressure because the baby’s shoulders got stuck. I gently reminded her that the only reason the doctor did that was to help the shoulders but the head was out already. So she said, “oh ok, but I’m still scared.”  So I asked her, “What do u want?”  She said she wanted her baby to come out without pushing. I said great. Imagine it. She said she can’t because she  has no energy. So at that point I told her to visualize G-ds energy as she inhales coming into her uterus and as she exhales pushing out her baby. She said,”Ok you visualize it for me!”   I said sure and she hung up empowered and pushed her 9 and half pound baby out with one push!!!

It was such a great lesson for me and I can’t thank Cathy and BirthWorks enough!

Earlier that day this same client was laboring pretty slow so I instructed my backup to do the rocking technique we had just learned that morning and she progressed very quickly to 10 cm!

Recently I had a prenatal meeting for a client who had 2 previous c sections and I used the grieving process we learned, asking her if she wanted to share anything that was hurting her  and she ended up telling me about a few childhood moves her family made when she was in school and how she was afraid to get too close to anyone and then have to move again and she came up with the idea that she was scared to carry something through to the end, the finish line. Explaining to her how we birth the way we live, both her previous births she stalled at 3 cm and wasn’t able to progress further. That awareness was amazing for her and it’s all due to the skills I learned in the grieving session.

Thanks a lot!

Adina Hoffman

 

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Janell’s Reflections

Intimate, Connecting and Peaceful, these are the words that come to mind when I reflect back on the 2019 BirthWorks Conference in Mt. Dora, Florida.  The speakers were inspiring and loving as they shared their knowledge and extensive experience with conference attendees.  The location was nostalgic and charming, worth the visit as well.

I personally was in awe of listening to Amber Price and the work she is doing to pave the way for better maternity care.  She shared many thought provoking facts that were spoken in truth and hope as she continues the momentum of a better and healthier maternity system.  She cares so deeply about her passion for improved maternity care and her professionalism in her administrative role is above and beyond “industry standards”.  I truly appreciated the information she shared regarding things that a hospital has control over in relation to addressing a concern or issue with a specific physician having privileges at a specific hospital.  Amber is like the first baby coming through the womb to pave the way for next generations to continue trusting the process of the journey of healthier and less interventions for better birth outcomes for all birthing families.

Another incredible session included Lori Barklage on Trauma Healing.  She emphasized how important it is to understand and to have tools to share with others that have experienced trauma in their childbirth journey.  She shared her heartbreaking stories of her past birth traumas and how she was able to heal those traumas and take those healing journey steps forward and help many others experiencing trauma in birth and other aspects of their lives.  The tool she provided in the workshop was so simple and easy to apply that I will be able to share and utilize its simplicity during the BirthWorks grieving and healing portion of the classes.  She is taking great strides in restoring the healing from trauma and does it in such a caring and loving way.

There were so many great guest speakers and keynote speakers that I just simply could not do them justice on a simple forum as this.  Having Nils Bergman, Michel Odent along with other local experienced and knowledgeable birth-field experts is always a unique quality that BirthWorks offers during the conferences. I highly recommend and encourage anyone thinking about attending a birth conference that is small, but mighty, to give thought to attending next year’s BirthWorks conference in southern California.